I am trying to write a blurb for Bhanu’s BAN EN BANLIEUE but I don’t know what to say. I keep a printout of the book in my backpack thinking I will absorb some words through osmosis and the blurb will arrive, formed. It’s a blurb! People write blurbs in 10 minutes yet I carry the assignment around with me for weeks. Can a blurb be meat? Can a blurb be milk? I appear to be collecting notes for a lengthy essay but a blurb is not a lengthy essay. I wake up thinking: excess fat, milk, runoff blood in the gutter. I try to unravel the structure of the text, wonder about the parts that are missing: autobiographical sketches auto-sacrificed by Bhanu-the-butcher. My friend says, it’s curious that it’s such a small book. He was imagining a project that had ballooned into hundreds of pages but of course the butchered text is not the whole of the meat that was written. The words are somewhere, buried, in 33 notebooks, maybe literally in the ground, decomposing.

BAN is she who cannot be written directly, she who must be written around, she who must be written in collaboration with the dead. The way Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s dead tongue licks the book yet unwritten. The way bodily detritus becomes the meat of the book. BAN is the placeholder-as-book. BAN is all substitutions. BAN is the SHOUT OUT-as-genre. BAN is cut. BAN is all cut and the violet light bursting out of the cut. BAN is the leftover bacon grease. BAN is a bloodstain on the pavement. Bibliomancy. A brown girl on the floor of the world. BAN is a wolf between the forest and the city by way of Agamben’s banished. BAN is exploding our idea of what counts as writing. When I mailed Bhanu a chunk of menstrual flesh in an empty spice jar—when she returned my letter to show me it was covered in my blood—when she buried the glassed pink globule in her garden—was this exchange of flesh and blood writing? Is the act of discarding itself writing? BAN is a trace of what has been discarded. BAN is a study of the transmogrification of body into light when it is struck by a pink lightning bolt. BAN is half-dead and escaping on the hide of a pink dolphin. BAN is the impossibility of beginning. BAN is a freakish assemblage of recombinant fragments. BAN is the view from the ground, from beneath the ground. BAN is a psychic blockade you cannot write into rubble. “Ban is disgusting.” BAN is a research topic that does not get funded because there is no point from which it can be analyzed. BAN is not a public history—it is the history of racism that cannot be told, for BAN has been mutated by a form of racism that does not register because it circulates as radiation. BAN is beneath the event of the race riot. She is the ground on which the race riot takes place. BAN is covered in broken glass.

I still don’t know what BAN is. I know that Bhanu’s figures are the immigrant, the monster, the schizophrenic, and the wolf and that my figures are the alien, the traveler, the Asian lost-girl, and the pervert. Maybe both of us believe that notebook roulette can be a method by which one generates a book. Bhanu writes BAN by not being able to write BAN. I blurb BAN by not not being able to blurb BAN. “This book will blow your mind.” “A tour de force.” HA! An anti-tour de force. A tour of force that is against the tour de force. I love Bhanu Kapil. She is my Punjabi fairy godmother.


What is this conspiracy of voice, the friend’s voice who sings, this time, William Blake’s "Laughing Song”: “When the painted birds laugh in the shade / Where our table with cherries and nuts is spread / Come live & be merry and join with me, / To sing the sweet chorus of Ha, Ha, He.” What is this orgy of song in the canopy above my head? What is the lightless of walking alone outside, or what I find when I force myself to stop reading and walk across the bridge over the Charles River at sunset. The breeze becomes an analgesic, the cop inside my head is gagged and the light on the water mimics exactly a fourth of July sparkler that sparkles forever as a loop of light growing in the mind of the universe, a pulsating mass of iridescent cerebral matter which any of you can plug into at any time just by accepting that perdition is not where you are condemned to dwell, that at any moment you can will the cosmic umbilical cords to drop from the light-mind for you to plug into your foreheads.

So it was all just a joke my head played on me? Hell. Hell was just a joke I could unbelieve? In the poem, what was it I said? You do / you do undo. My being, invaginated by the levity of stealing all the food I can while sauntering through the party in my machine gun leggings. What is the nature of your being? Joohyun describes me as a “comedian” but why is it that some know me as a dour, joyless depressive? White people? Well, I guess not *all* of them. Memory of a conversation I had in D’s car about substance, Spinoza, friendship, and bad mixtures. What mixes well with me is sun but it’s difficult to reconcile this with being a creature of the night. On the nighttime walk to the library I close my eyes and am impaled by the sun. The streetlights are false moons. Behind the tree, the real moon. Through a window in the Science Center I see a man looking into a microscope. Above him, a room in which the sign LASERS AT USE is plastered. The bio- and cyberneticians are at work. I feel them everywhere in Cambridge, engineering our collective death. Around the corner a teenage boy folds his apron in the “Bon Me” food truck. His shift has just finished and soon he’ll be home or in the bed of a lover.

I remember…feeling inside my head but then getting hit by the sun from behind a tree. I look up, into the song. The wind breathes yellow rain, it falls from branches as bits of yellow confetti cut out of construction paper that litters the campus, sticks to the bottom of the shoes of students and is dragged into the library. The trees cry light so that we may be happy. Are you happy? The German mathematician walks by, he seems not to recognize me. I want to find L but I haven’t got my phone on me. The yellow leaves transport me to the backseat of Nat’s car, sitting next to Dana, pointing out the leaves to him, the way they catch the light on their way down.

To be on the road—it felt like an adolescent summer! “My last week of freedom.” But for the punks, the summer never ends. There’s no back-to-school to punctuate leisure time, for time does not revolve around the beginning and end of a semester and so on the same day I start school I receive a postcard from S of a picture of him and J hopping trains across the BC Rockies. But these short train hopping and sailing excursions are just a precursor to S’s main adventure: sailing to Hawaii, where I’m sure M will meet him on a tech research business trip funded by the US government. I want to write S, TAKE ME WITH YOU, but there is no return address—he’s on the move.

When Dana asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up I said, a traveler.

In the postcard photo both S and J are wearing navy blue jackets. S is doing a peace sign and J is flicking off the camera. Are they caricaturing their respective temperaments? I remember the summer I met them both. I remember somehow finding my way to J’s house—via M—I didn’t know him then. As we sat in his living room talking he told me stories about his travels across central American and then it clicked—he was the author of the only zine I brought with me that summer, a zine I randomly plucked from the New College zine library, One Way Ticket. “31 and 32 years old and still oogles,” S jokes in his letter. J is in a PhD program now, studying continental philosophy, still falling in love like it’s the first time.

Maybe it’s okay to use this space to take a break from concepts, theories, ideas, even literature. To try to find my way back to the non-teleological event of writing. A writing that is comfortable enough with itself to be simple, to just feel out the texture of a walk, or being with others. Small observations. So when people ask me what I’m working on I can say, nothing. I have no grand statements for you. I am a life, like you, and this is about that. As I observed the uneven brick sidewalk of Oxford St I remembered the sensation of what was once the most distinct of all feelings for me: gratitude.

It seemed to radiate from everything. I loved strangers. I loved to watch the way they were present with each other. The more confused they appeared to me, the more I loved them. I loved the backs of their heads while walking down crowded streets. I loved M for sitting with me in the Kunming cafes, letting me in against his better judgment. I loved the dog shit-paved streets of Govan (Glasgow), the majesty of Buchanan Street and the thoroughfares of foreign towns, walking down them in the warped consciousness of toothaches. “Busby Station”—when Joohyun said it, our train rides came back to me. The timbre of a certain accent heard over an intercom, seared into our minds. I even loved when Nemo the Dalmatian (RIP) stole the fruitcake in Nosh and Cloudberry’s living room. I loved the steam rising from the old houses on a rare sunny day in Glasgow. Today (the day I wrote this) the sun was so bright but it rained, for only an hour, and this hour of rain was synchronized exactly with my counseling session. From the fourth floor of the HUHS building I watched a storm rage and violently whip the leaves of a tree while the psychologist asked me questions about my depression. “I even loved everything bad, for it was part of the whole of life.” But this mentality also manifests as a self-destructive inability to stay mad at anyone. “Because she was real to me, I could not hate her.”

Was the rain sent to cleanse me?

Genuflect because there is gratitude—an all-pervasive feeling of contrition. Look at how my hatred softens. It is supple like silken tofu.

My skin betrays me by failing as a barrier.

But what does this ineptitude of skin allow me?

I loved coasting down the bridge into Lido Key.

I loved the Mesilla weeping willows. I loved my spice shelf in the house I lived in with P. I loved the smell of the cool air coming through the cracks of my Goodview porch room, walking down the snowy Hampden street on my birthday.

I have no grand statements for you. I have a bowl of pennies…some sentences and half-sentences. Scraps of patterned origami paper. I have…the parti-colored lights on the bridge into Poughkeepsie. Whispers in the backseat of a car. Daydreams of lives epically lived, but epic in feeling not wealth or importance. I have…a pigeon crashing into a glass walkway, falling to the ground, and dying. Twitching on the ground. The death throes. The way it stared at me right before dying. L, my dad and I were all deeply disturbed and as we pried ourselves from the distressing scene my father told us the story of the man who killed the last passenger pigeon, how they were once so abundant they blotted out the sky. We were looking for a place to eat…

There is history in every microtransaction, glances exchanged between strangers, or even the tear I left on the Woodberry table, the way the reflection of the light in the tear made it look like an eyeball with a laser pupil. The night will be good to you if you can resist the urge to blot out feeling with molecules that will make life bearable but less round. There is a night waiting for you, where you kill the fear that has been holding you hostage.

Loving as an owl, watching, at night, from a tree. Arboreal creature. We are made of feather, bliss, borrowed light. Write yourself into a state, again. Love and then sleep, some backtracking but all is not lost. “You are free”—but for how long? Life becomes this mythology of the everyday, made by freaks on their lonely, unscripted journeys.


The way the song finds its way to you, your friend Ben singing Paul Celan, ecstatically: “A rumbling: truth / itself has appeared / among humankind / in the very thick of their / flurrying metaphors.” You’re biking down down Oxford with your new daisy helmet. Next up is Ros Sereysothea and you think that you would like to live inside the sensation of biking in the sun to Ros Sereysothea forever. Inside the sun you feel as though it is possible that you are approaching a Cambodian beach but this is Cambridge, MA—there is almost no place on earth more distant (ontologically) from Cambodia than Cambridge, MA (though they do share a CAMB-). It’s a quality of sun that warps time and geographically dislodges you—you are nowhere, you are everywhere. You are inside the love you lost as you observe some leaves it is a love without object or ego just pure perception, enlivened senses and waking up to life this latent life always with you but buried beneath anxieties and wound-reactions and everything you want to be but are not, you’re not enough. In the sun such thoughts fly away. A truth rumbles in the song. But this truth is the absence of metaphor, is shown when human systems of thought peel away and language suicides to lay bare the world in its fecundity and raw materiality.

You? You is me and me is you. For a second I felt proud. I have to switch to the “I” to take ownership of the proudness I felt in that moment. For there was a future I could sense though I could not imagine it. I thought about my life trajectory to prove to myself that in all those moments I believed there was no future, I did indeed eventually arrived at some new place I could not imagine in moments of despair.

Time is running out. Went to a 7am spinning class and then a meditation class because I’m trying to be a human. I am sitting at a computer in the Lamont library cafe, brain somersaulting because today is a full day from 6:30 am until 8pm. A new life tempo. After living so long in the doldrums I feel myself entering the temporality of being a grad student.

There was something I came here to say and I feel I have to say it now or I will never say it, because this is my last hour before school starts, how strange. Life. Goddamn. I’ve barely had a second to stop and look at the ground and say, I’m here. How did I get here? After drifting around broke and aimless for 4 years post-New College, between punk houses and shitty relationships, Scotland and the desert, misplaced obsessions and epistolary insanity—I am now about to start my first day as a Harvard PhD student. In the deepest depression of my life, I applied to PhD programs. This was soon after dropping out of an MFA program. I was living in Albuquerque for two months in a shabby apartment supplied by the editors of Semiotext(e). They thought if I had a little geographic stability for a couple months I could write, but instead I applied to grad school because I needed a fast way to get my life on track. Some intellectual stimulation. Some money. A base. I wasn’t expecting to get into any schools but I was proud to have at least done it, as an exercise. It was amazing I was able to do anything at all given the state I was in psychologically.

But then in Feb the acceptance letters started coming. First was Harvard, and then 5 minutes later NYU. This was the week of my older brother’s hearing, the hearing we had been waiting for for almost 9 years. I hardly had time to process the good news because of all the familial trauma. Court rooms. Judges. Then the morning after the hearing I found myself on a plane to San Francisco to speak on a panel with Lauren Berlant, Kathi Weeks, etc. I didn’t sleep. Thank God the flight was delayed. The next few months were spent drifting around the Bay, Chicago, New York and Cambridge—visiting schools, agonizing over which program to select. For most of the time I was leaning toward doing Geography at CUNY and studying with Ruth Gilmore and the other CUNY Marxist geographers but New York was making me feel crazy and I couldn’t imagine living there as a grad student. I went with Harvard to do African and African American Studies/History but cried for weeks over the decision, particularly passing up the opportunity to work with Ruthie.

Now here I am. The immediate class ascension has been jarring—not that I’m making *that* much money, but I guess the Harvard brand is worth a lot in social capital. Now when people ask me what I do I don’t have to shrug and say, “You know…living the bullshit bohemian life.” Have I been bought out? I hope not. No institution will ever be able to steal my soul because I have been against institutions since I was in middle school. But they can make me feel crazy as fuck. How can I not go crazy? I’m trying to figure that out.

Sorry this is shitty I’m trying to write fast. I just wanted to put my values down so I can come back later and analyze the discrepancies between where I was before starting a PhD and wherever I am in the future. But now I’m blanking at this very simple assignment. Do I really have to say it? I don’t want to become an academic. I don’t want a normative life. I don’t want heterosexual monogamy. I want poetry to remain part of my life. I want my research to be relevant and committed. I want to continue to work with Black and Pink. I want to continue to roll with the queers and militant feminists and insurrectionists and poets or maybe less the poets at least the apolitical white kind. I wanna take time to be present with plants and sun and sky and water and to maintain the same level of intimacy with and love for my friends. I don’t ever want to be an elitist. I don’t want to make anyone feel stupid or not good enough. I want to remain epistemologically porous. I want to continue to pay attention to my dreams. I want to give life and make people feel strong but also to know when to not use up all of my energy on people who can’t receive what I give. I don’t want anxiety to replace joy as the primary affective space I occupy. I don’t want to default to a secure/comfortable life because it’s easier. I don’t want to be neutralized, either actively by Harvard or indirectly by my new material situation (which could shift my priorities).

Out of time. There is more to say. Later gators.


I am in bed. Burning mugwort. Wondering how far I will make it into this post or what errors I will inadvertently memorialize by writing publicly in this fugue state. My head my head hurts but my room is very comfortable I am lying down with an ipad on my lap and the hum of the AC which comforted R and it may or may not be raining now but it was raining when I parted with L and M and the last thing M said was, come find me if you ever want to wallow in misery. I laughed as I briskly crossed Mass Ave. Light rain, street lights refracted by puddles but I am not walking to the subway I’m on my way to the bad room. Goodbye world! Goodbye time! I’ll see you when my worries are diminished such that anything else is allowed to enter…

What. What…? Write us anything. But what is there to say? That Cixous’ voice in my headphones soothed me while I was walking to the gym? That I sat in the grass with people while eating veggie burger patties and a woman from China sat with us and L smeared ketchup on her face like it was warrior paint and then pointed to a building and asked us if we could write a book about what was going on in each room. The Chinese student walked away. J was annoyed by L’s freakish behavior. I just thought it was funny and laughed, perhaps inappropriately. Then J and L went on to discuss how as an undergrad L turned all the Harvard girls gay and while they were telling me stories of dyke tumult and turmoil my head made a transpositional leap from the French boarding school lesbian scenario of Violette Leduc’s Therese and Isabelle to an American Ivy League dormitory. Imagine: girls hooking up with girls for the first time in the shadows of all this power and prestige while the squared-jawed monied men lay the groundwork for their future careers as presidents, CEOs, bankers, and whatever else evil Harvard people do.

The unnamed dormitory where the lesbo lust circulated became a repository for my wild fantasies of erotic pedagogy, secrecy and forbidden desire. In my imagination the dorm was a kind of desire factory where freshman girls—disoriented by the the process of leaving the nest and newly released from the grips of tyrannical, overbearing parents—were finally free to experience what I believe is latent in most women: the desire for women. Or maybe I’m just attaching myself to a fantastic image of a subterranean lesbian sociality that doesn’t actually exist or maybe L is just endowed with the magical power to turn straight girls gays. I don’t know.

This is not what I came here to say. I opened up this window intending to write a pre-PhD assessment of my values but instead I wrote about lesbians. It probably says something about my values.

Desiring defectively as a form of life

"Anything that happens is probably fine."

It was the last thing I wrote in my journal, probably minutes ago, yet when I look down at the page I already feel as though I have drifted so far in my head from this point of view. How rapidly life shifts between feeling totally unlivable to deeply humorous. The people around me seem fine. Even when their lives are a mess they can still make jokes about television shows and shopping the pain away by buying platform shoes. M says, “I have to keep my hair short now because I’m getting old and shaggy hair doesn’t look good on aging men.” The absence of any distress in his remark surprises me. “How do you talk about aging so casually, with such cool detachment and acceptance of the fact of aging?” His rotting teeth don’t even seem to phase him. But I can’t seem to think the phrase “we age” or look at the scars on my body without feeling deep existential dread about the inevitability of death. Becoming unlovable. A worthless woman.

I am surprised that it is possible for anyone to ever get acclimated to living. To wake up without feeling intense psychic friction or mental anguish about having to live another day. To go on dates. To make dating profiles. To move the record player from the bedroom to the living room. To check their email. To have friends over for dinner. To answer phone calls. To get haircuts. On a hot summer New York day I sat outside M’s barbershop on the curb drinking a can of Arizona iced tea, wondering if I could one day be the kind of person who gets haircuts. Everyone seemed to want to tell me about their love and sex lives and I listened with the curiosity of an anthropologist. People get drunk, have sloppy sex, scream WHY DONT YOU JUST GO GET HIS COCK in Washington Sq Park. Throw knives. Hit each other. Cheat. Get jealous. Cruise. Have make-up sex. Break up marriages. Cry. Want more. Fuck their friends. Get suspended from hooks every weekend. Give lap dances to the men of Wall St. Get tied up. Learn how to navigate being just friends. Fall in love at the wrong time. Know whether they are a “top” or a “bottom.” Feel exhausted by polyamory. Get out of bad relationships. Get into good relationships. Know what they want. Don’t know what they want. Say they want one thing then do another. Feel gendered in different ways in different contexts. Think about relationality. Don’t think about relationality. Don’t tell their old lovers they have a new lover. Get obsessed. Keep getting back together. Dry spells. Transitions. Spraying the terrain. Accept that things change. Don’t accept that things change. Protracted break ups. Not wanting to lose one’s object. -Come get your cat. -I don’t want to get the cat because that would mean that things are really over. Desire strikes, an unforeseeable bolt cleaves a life. It’s not the instability or irrationality of human relationships that surprises me, but people’s orientation to fluctuation. The ongoingness of life. The capacity to not dwell in the devastation.

While sitting in the garden with M he asks what Hannah asked when she was visiting: What do you want? To which I reply, I don’t know. He says, make a mess. If it’s not going to completely destroy you in the end, it’s fine. You’re young. Experiment.

When M’s haircut is finished we walk back to his apartment, talking about crushes, cybernetics, teeth, whatever. He stops abruptly to take a selfie of his new haircut but unable to get the lighting and angle right he hands me his phone to take the picture for him. I joke, “The selfie is the user’s attempt to assert its subjectivity against the collapse of all western metaphysical systems.” He smiles because in some small way he sees that I see him and being seen seeing also constitutes me too. Maybe in the same way someone feels they have shape only when they are caring for another. Maybe it’s the shape I’m given when I stop into a corner store to buy M Cherry Garcia-flavored Ben & Jerry’s ice cream when we were all walking home from the bar drunk. Because I knew what he wanted in that moment. Small gestures.

The day before I left for New York Dana and I talked about what it means to have shape only in relation to another. He started texting me while I was sitting on the perron of the Widener library at sunset rereading My Walk With Bob, feeling devastated about Bruce’s loss of Jonathan, his sense that he was being replaced, that it was the most natural thing that a relationship should collapse and with it, the domestic language that was form during the encounter. “How am I going to get along now, who’s going to take care of me?” Dana: “and with no one to care for—how will I be real to myself?” I told Dana that I have not yet figured out how to orient myself to loss in that I stubbornly insist on on living with absences, presentizing them because I can’t let anything go, but that’s not entirely true, I think as M and I converse with tenderness and familiarity of close siblings. I feel silly about my April sadomasochistic M fantasies, though perhaps to indulge the irrational fixation further would have been fine too. “You’re fine,” he says to my neurotic self-analysis. “Am I?” I ask. “Yes.” “But why do I feel so ashamed?” “Maybe you can play with that shame. Maybe the shame can be erotic.”

Is that the Chris Kraus approach? To not necessarily strive for shamelessness but affirm one’s abjectness or at least reconcile oneself to the possibility that what might register as a personal defect in the way that one relates to or loves others may actually be a site of potential? Anyway, M won’t indulge my usual line of thinking. You can’t convince a self-described pervert that any way of desiring is defective.

Is anyone there

Is anyone here

It’s been so long since I’ve been here

I am typing this on my phone because I don’t remember my password. I want to write you something from my computer, something thought-out and crackling with urgency or the hyperactive nervous system translated into language

I am sitting on a bed in Ridgewood that belongs to a cool person named Ashley, awake because I was separated from my sleeping pills and so am forced to confront myself or a public self that was lost a couple years ago when life became a pile of shit laced with diamonds that represents the proverbial difficult yet “valuable” lesson.

I am here because I was also separated from my journal. How is this possible, that I feel such intense separation anxiety being away from my journal? Because my journal has been my main company these last couple years but if I am to be really honest with myself I’d have to admit it has become a way of avoiding the world. It’s where I hide because…because…I am afraid.

I’m losing it. (The desire to write?) Wanted to say everything tonight or wonder aloud how it is possible to go to sleep after an anti-police/Ferguson solidarity march, especially when you are separated from your pills. Wanted to write certain moments, to burn certain images into my head or try to make sense of the intangible intensities of being alive like the ebb and flow of the energy of the crowd or the fever pitch of the collective voice when group #1 is unified with group #2 making us a mass twice as large and loud. This was New York City. I wore my thrift store Puma sneakers and carried my platform shoes in a plastic bag so I could run from the cops.

Fundraiser for a dear friend and comrade!!

Hello friends!

Jackie here. I just wanted to let you know about a fundraiser that my friend Emilie and I organized for our best friend, LaKeyma (Chelsey) Pennyamon! In addition to being a tumblr sensation (ha!), LaKeyma has worked on a number of Black radical and feminist projects in Baltimore and is a member of Coalition of Friends, the LIES journal editorial collective, and volunteer at the Youth Empowered Society (YES) Drop-in Center. She was a founding member of the Baltimore Feminist Reading Group and was one of the authors behind the widely circulated W&TCH Occupy communique. LaKeyma also has an essay coming out in the forthcoming issue of LIES: A Journal of Materialist Feminism that examines the political implications, for Black women, of defining anti-Black racism as emasculation. (Seriously—this is a *paradigm shifting* essay that you all *must* read as soon as it drops!)

We’re trying to raise money to help LaKeyma enroll at Morgan State University in Baltimore because we are continually blown away by her genius and believe wholeheartedly in her intellectual and political work. LaKeyma, who was forced out of school due to financial reasons, has been wanting to go back to school for a while but has had a difficult time re-enrolling because she has faced a number of financial and bureaucratic obstacles. With your help we hope to raise the funds necessary to cover the cost of enrollment…just in time for her birthday!!!

Help this beautiful comrade out!!

Miss you all! Thanks for your help!

My girl LaKeyma (Chelsey) Pennyamon (LIES, Coalition of Friends) is trying to go back to school but is facing ridiculous financial barriers. Em and I are trying to raise money for her for her birthday! Please share this widely and donate if you can <3333